The most recent study showed that the drug Tamiflu is no more effective than other flu medicines and was a waste of money. Several countries were afraid that influenza pandemic could break out and they spent millions to stockpile the drugs Tamiflu and Relenza.
An independent group of scientists from the Cochrane Collaboration was researching efficacy of those two medicines and came to the conclusion that it is very questionable. Tamiflu and Relenza only shortened the flu from 7 to 6.3 days and is therefore no “magical” medicine. The effect was mostly seen with the adults and younger children but medicines did not help children with asthma at all. Drugs did not reduce the number of hospitalized patients and also did not lessen the complications of the disease. According to researchers, the medicine is no more effective than acetaminophen.
The research has also shown that several side effect accompanied people who were taking Tamiflu or Relenza. Many patients committed suicide due to mental troubles, caused by those two medicines. Tamiflu also increased troubles with kidneys, vomiting, nausea and headaches. Several patients also complained over restlessness and depression. The researchers also claim that in some patients, Tamiflu prevented their bodies to produce sufficient number of anti-bodies which could fight the infection. “Over 1.000 people were weekly prescribed with that medicine, but it is no more effective than acetaminophen or any other flu medicine. There is no proof, that those medicines could prevent an influenza pandemic. I would never prescribe Tamiflu or Relenza to my patients, they are a waste of money” said Carl Henegen, professor from Oxford University. Tom Jefferson, epidemiologist at the Cochrane Collaboration added: “Tamiflu and Relenza are also toxic. They increase the risk for psychotic conditions, headaches and kidney diseases at one of the 150 patients.”
Researchers also said that they had many troubles when they were trying to get information from the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche which manufactures Tamiflu, since they insisted that information are strictly confidential. Yet Roche rejected the findings and said that it “fundamentally disagrees with the study’s overall conclusions.” In its statement, Roche also said that they firmly stand behind the quality and integrity of their data and that Tamiflu is in fact a very effective medicine which treats and prevents influenza. Roche also said that researchers used “inaccurate and inappropriate” methodology during the research. GlaxoSmithKline, manufacturer of Relenza medicine said that the medicine is effective if it is used correctly and in the correct patient. Most pharmacists warned the researchers that they can endanger human health with such conclusions.
Scientists are now addressing the World Health Organization (WHO) to reconsider their proposal that the countries should renew their stocks of medicines when they reach its expiration date. Countries started buying Tamiflu in 2006 due to fear from bird flu expansion and were unaware that they are wasting their money on something that could never in fact prevent influenza pandemic. The U.S. spent $1.3 billion on its antiviral stockpile, while U.K. spent £424 million on Tamiflu only. The research was published in British Medical Journal and it certainly highlights future decisions to purchase and use Tamiflu and Relenza.
By Janette Verdnik